Silas Marner by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) (1819 - 1880)

Silas Marner
by George Eliot (Mary

Ann Evans) (1819 - 1880)

Type of Work:

Symbolic, life drama

Setting

English village of Raveloe; early nineteenth
century

Principal Characters

Silas Marner, a lonely and miserly linen-weaver

Godfrey Cass, an insensitive, yet charming,
young man

Dunstan Cass, Godfrey's opportunistic
brother

Squire Cass, Godfrey and Dunstan's lewd,
dull-witted father

Eppie, an abandoned little girl

Story Overveiw

Silas Marner, bent at his loom, was interrupted
by some curious boys peering through his cabin window. Scaring them away
with an icy stare, the shriveled linen-weaver returned to his work.

Fifteen years earlier Marner had come to

Raveloe from a northern industrial town, where he had been a respected
elder in a small fundamentalist sect. But one night as he watched over
a deacon lying on his death-bed, Silas fell into a trance. While he slept,
his best friend had stolen into the room and taken the deacon's money bag;
then, in a move to win the affections of Silas' sweetheart, he had blamed
the theft on Silas. The weaver was "convicted" in the case by the drawing
of lots; and even God found him guilty. His faith shattered and "his trust
in man ... cruelly bruised," Silas had left his beloved home in Lantern

Yard. The eccentric visionary now found himself a ]one alien in the prosperous
village of Raveloe.

Taking refuge in his work, Silas slowly
began to accumulate gold. It became his one purpose in life, and every
evening the near-sighted old man would count and caress his shiny coins.

Still, Silas' life grew more and more empty:

"He hated the thought of the past; there was nothing that called out his
love and fellowship toward the strangers he had come amongst; and the future
was dark, for there was "no Unseen Love that cared for him."

Meanwhile, Squire Cass, the "greatest man
in Raveloe," threw nightly parties and attended pubs by day. One of his
sons, Dunstan, followed him in his drunken reveries. His other son, Godfrey,
had a slightly better reputation, and it was presumed he would soon marry
the lovely Nancy Lammeter. But Dunstan knew a secret about Godfrey, kept
hidden from their harsh father: Godfrey was already married to Molly, a
raucous tavern woman with whom he had shared a brief moment of passion.

"Dunsey" continually manipulated his brother over this secret, demanding
money to pay gambling debts. In fact, Godfrey finally even handed over
to his brother the Squire's rent money. Then, with no other way left to
reimburse their father, Godfrey let his brother take his own prize horse
to be sold at a nearby fair.

Dunstan was paid a good price for the horse,
but while delivering it to its new owner he was diverted into joining a
hunting party, where the animal was accidentally killed. Unfazed and drunken,

Dunstan kept the payment. Then, taking a shortcut on his way home, he passed

Silas Marner's cabin. Recalling rumors that the weaver kept a hoard of
gold, Dunstan entered the empty cabin, uncovered the miser's money, and
carted it off into the night.

Silas returned home that night in anticipation
of sitting down to the roasted meat provided by the neighbor-lady. But,
as was his ritual, when he lifted the bricks to gloat over his cache of
gold, he found that it was gone. Hysterically, he rushed off to the nearby

Rainbow Pub to alert the authorities.

For days the townsfolk debated the robbery.

Some said that the Devil was the thief and that Silas' money was now in
hell. Others blamed a ghost or a gypsy peddler.

When Dunstan didn't arrive home from selling
his brother's horse, no one was concerned. Dunstan had a reputation for
sporadic disappearances. The only notable reaction to his absence was Squire

Cass' rage after Godfrey confessed to the reasons behind the missing rent
money.

Over the weeks, village interest in Silas'
problem died down, though the citizens still felt sorry for the withered
and despondent recluse. A few neighbors - Dolly Winthrop and her little
son, Aaron, in particular - invited Silas to church and sometimes prepared
food for him.

As Christmas came and went Godfrey remained
in frustration and turmoil. His father prodded him to propose to Nancy

Lammetcr. How Godfrey wished he could. Then, at Squire Cass' annual New

Year's Eve party, Godfrey began to woo Nancy. Unbeknownst to him, however,
his wife, Molly, was at that moment trudging through the snow towards the
house, hand in hand with a ragged, golden-haired two-year-old girl. Seeking
revenge, she intended to expose the marriage and force Godfrey to acknowledge
their child. But fate intervened: before she arrived, the opium-crazed
woman was overcome by weakness, and she collapsed.